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Tech, Defensive Filings Cause Vulnerabilities

WASHINGTON-Calling financial institutions the "first line of defense" against money laundering, the U.S. Money Laundering Threat Assessment working group said technological advancements that decrease the amount of "face time" between institution and customer has created a new vulnerability in the system.

According to the MLTA, the first government-wide analysis of money laundering issues, the number of Currency Transaction Reports and Suspicious Activity Reports continues to increase as financial institutions seek to do their part-and cover themselves-in the anti-money laundering crusade.

But the rapid increase in reports is a double-edged sword. While many of these reports are the result of greater vigilance, some are considered to be "defensive filings" by financial institutions, in which SARs are filed on nonsuspicious transactions out of concern about regulatory and criminal scrutiny.

"Such defensive filing dilutes the value of the information in the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) database," the report said.

Jax Plans Expansion With New Charter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.-Jax FCU said NCUA has approved its request to convert to a community charter serving 1.2-million people in a five-county area of North Florida.

With the increased field of membership, the CU said it plans to expand its branch network, double its asset growth and add an additional 100 employees over the next five years.

"Our branch expansion plans exemplify our desire to be accessible to our members," says Gerri Sexsion, JAX FCU president. "We focus on making it easy for our members to do business by providing several channels of communication, including face-to-face, online and telephone banking."

New Bank Springs Into Action

NEW YORK CITY-A new community development bank designed to go head-to-head with check-cashers is set to open in the Bronx during the first half of the year, now that it has hired Gerard A. Perri as its CEO.

CheckSpring Bank will focus on serving the large unbanked population in the Bronx, taking a page from check cashers by "creating a new kind of bank with a niche focus," the bank said, "but will go much farther than check cashers by providing the unbanked with the ability to establish bank accounts and access to affordable lending products."

A 30-year veteran of the financial service industry, Perri joins CheckSpring Bank from Metropolitan National Bank (MetBank), where he was the founding chief financial officer, guiding MetBank in its growth from $8 million to $375 million in total assets.

Gov. Signs I.D. Theft Bill

HARRISBURG, Penn.-Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell has signed into law a bill aimed at protecting people when their personal data is breached.

The "Breach of Personal Information Notification Act" requires a "state agency, political subdivision, and individual or business operating in Pennsylvania or that maintains, stores, or manages personal consumer information on computers to notify people if its security systems are breached."

CU Changes Name To Legacy

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.-The $190-million University FCU here has a new name: Legacy Community FCU. Originally chartered to serve the University of Alabama, it expanded in December 2003 with a community charter to serve the seven-county Birmingham area.

Mich. CUs Merge, Change Name

NORTHVILLE TOWNSHIP, Mich.-Two large Michigan credit unions have merged and are now operating under a new name. Macomb Schools and Government Credit Union and SOC Credit Union have merged and are now operating as Michigan Schools and Government CU.

According to the Michigan league, it is the first time two credit unions in the top 10% asset tier in the state have ever merged. The new institution has $715 million in assets and 65,000 members.

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